12.29.11

The New York Times’s Subscriber Fiasco and More Biggest Email Blunders

From The New York Times’s mistaken email to more than 8 million people about a subscriber deal, to the Yankees’ Web leak of information about 17,000 season-ticket holders, The Daily Beast rounds up some of the biggest email snafus.

The New York Times 8.6 Million-Person Blunder

The New York Times mistakenly emailed 8.6 million current and former readers on Wednesday, telling them of a special deal to reconsider canceling a subscription—except many had never subscribed in the first place. Facing mass confusion, the paper at first said the email was “spam,” but later corrected its statement to clarify that an employee had sent the email by accident.

New Jersey Middle-School Principal’s Racy Photo to Students

A middle-school principal asked his secretary to send out an email inviting students to come to school in their pajamas—but in attaching an illustration of a kid holding a teddy bear, she mistakenly included a picture of Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima in a lacy black bra, too—shocking parents and students alike. They were quickly notified of the error.

White House Story on Candidate Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal Plan

In 2008, still years away from the eventual formal withdrawal executed under President Obama, a Bush White House aide sent around a Reuters story in which Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he “supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months … the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes." An ABC News report at the time clarified that the staffer hit the wrong button: the communiqué was intended for an internal email list, but was blasted out to an extensive press distribution list.

Salacious Exchange Forwarded to Entire Cornell Student Body

Cornell students at the Johnson School were forwarded a rather steamy correspondence between two employees—both married—that touches all the romantic buttons: tickling, tasting, and a whole slew of other unmentionables. You can read it here: (warning: NSFW). The school followed that up with an email from HR, which apologized for the error and asked users to discard the email. "If you need to talk to someone," it read, "please don’t hesitate to contact [redacted]."

UC San Diego Tells 46,000 Freshmen, ‘You Got In!’

In March 2009, University of California, San Diego, excitedly told 46,000 applicants they were accepted as students of the university! Except, whoops, the school could fit only 18,000. Turns out UC San Diego had sent the email to the entire freshman admissions group, as opposed to just those who had been accepted. "We accessed the wrong database," the admissions director later said. "We recognize the incredible pain receiving this false encouragement caused. It was not our intent."

Countrywide CEO Replies to Homeowner’s E-Plea, Calls It ‘Disgusting’

A homeowner hoping to remain in his house of 16 years was particularly surprised when he got a response to a generic email he had sent to Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo using a form letter from a website for troubled borrowers. Mozilo, who meant to forward his email to colleagues, wrote, “This is unbelievable. Most of these letters now have the same wording. Obviously they are being counseled by some other person or by the Internet. Disgusting.” The company later distanced itself from the response by releasing a statement regretting “any misunderstanding caused by his inadvertent response.”

Yahoo Blocks Emails to OccupyWallSt.org for ‘Suspicious Activity’

One week after protesters first claimed Zuccotti Park as their own, Think Progress noticed Yahoo users were being prevented from sending emails containing links to the movement's home at occupywallst.org—a filter deemed the emails “suspicious.” Facing accusations of censorship, Yahoo quickly explained the problem “was not intentional & caught by our spam filters.” It was resolved later that day.

Yankees Employee Sends Private Info of 17,000 Ticketholders

A Yankees employee struck out when he mistakenly emailed a few hundred people the private information of 17,000 season ticketholders, and “accidentally attached to an email a spreadsheet containing the sensitive information,” the New York Post reported. Sports blog Deadspin added that the communication excluded potential VIP fans in the luxury suites. The team stated that the Yankees “deeply regret this incident and any inconvenience that it might cause” and promised “remedial measures” to ensure it wouldn't happen again.

Cristiano Ronaldo Forwards X-Rated Fan Photos to Friends

Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo mistakenly forwarded X-rated photos sent to him by a Dutch fan to everyone in his address book—including, the Daily Mail notes, his 25-year-old model fiancée Irina Shayk. The athlete reportedly was “red-faced” and “embarrassed” and “mortified” about the incident.

Colorado Lottery Tells 3,700 Subscribers ‘You’ve Won!’

The Colorado Lottery sent out a wave of heartbreak when it mistakenly emailed 3,700 subscribers to announce they had won $100. “Thank you for taking the time and providing us with your feedback on potential drawing games,” it read. “Congratulations! You are a winner. You have won $100!” A spokesperson quickly told a reporter at The Denver Post it was all a mistake, and “we didn't intend for this to upset anyone.” Luckily for the lottery, however, most users thought it was a scam anyway—and never replied.

Health-Care Company Sends Sensitive Medical Info to Wrong People

The private information of 858 members of Kaiser Permanente, including sensitive medical data, names, and phone numbers, was sent by email to the wrong people in August 2000, when “a programming error” occurred. Tech workers caught the problem—but not before the information had reached hundreds. The health-insurance company then set out to call all affected members, apologizing for the error. “Some are upset,” a spokesperson admitted. “The vast majority have been gracious.”